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St. Augustine businesses could be taxed for construction project

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Updated: 10/15/2013 6:37 pm

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- A major construction project in downtown St. Augustine would mean a new tax on some local businesses.

City commissioners approved $125,000 to get started on the engineering portion of the beautification plan for Hypolita, Spanish and Treasury streets. The next step is getting business owners along those roads to agree to pay a portion of the $2.7 million project.

City manager John Regan has met with several businesses who have already agreed to help pay a portion of the project.

"Each business will pay $1.17 per foot of their property along the road," said Regan.

That means if a business covers 100 feet along an affected road, it would pay $117 per month over 15 years at a 3 percent interest rate. In total, the more than 50 businesses would pay $750,000. The rest of the money will come the city's storm water fund, utility fund and general fund.

John Arbizanni who owns Scarlet O'Hara's and Rhett's on Hypolita Street, said it's a small price to pay for a project that is long over due.

"It's a pretty ugly scape. If you look at the barricades, sometimes it's not even safe walking down there it's a little bit dark," said Arbizanni.

The renovations would include adding new sidewalks, storm water drains, lighting and even gas pipe lines. Regan calls it the city's most ambitious project since the parking garage was built. The city commission will vote to give final approval in November, if it passes construction could begin as early as January.

"It'll beautify our street, which will be a benefit to our business," said Arbizzani.

According to Regan, the project would take about a year to complete.


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